Monday, March 1, 2010

Hitting The Ditch Switch: A Look In Rewind

I've been trying to write this for over a week now, a deranged layperson's take on the trade that excised another piece of the 2006 Finals team and got us . . . what? So screw it, let's work the chronology backwards:

February 26-March 1, 2010
With some superhuman performances by Dirk and Kidd, the Mavericks manage wins against the Atlanta Hawks, the New Orleans Hornets, and the Charlotte Bobcats. They currently ride the longest win streak in the NBA, and their longest win streak since January 2008.

February 24, 2010
See previous entry for bliss. After two blowouts the Mavericks successfully defend home court and tie the season series.

February 17-22, 2010
After an embarassing loss in Oklaholma City, the new version Mavericks notch four wins in six nights, including an impressive victory over Dwight Howard's Orlando Magic. The team has yet to hold a formal practise session since the trade. As a result, Jason Kidd is playing extended minutes and putting up some of the most impressive work since he was traded to Dallas in 2008.

February 16, 2010
The first game since the All-Star Break and the first since the trade with Washington. Because of the delay involved in player trades -- red tape with the league -- the team has not practised together yet, and it shows as the offense goes totally ice-cold in the second half. Erick Dampier suffers an open dislocation of his middle finger and undergoes surgery to repair it after the game is over. He is out indefinitely; estimates range from four to eight weeks.

February 13, 2010
Washington trades Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas in exchange for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross.

February 9, 2010
The Mavericks go from a win in Oakland to a thoroughly humiliating gang-rape of a 36-point loss in Denver. Seriously. Tears were shed. The Nuggets are allowed to shoot 60% from the floor and outrebound the Mavericks 47-28. The game becomes unwatchable in the second quarter. And then it gets worse.

January 11, 2010
Dallas acquired forward Eduardo Najera from New Jersey for forward Kris Humphries and forward Shawne Williams.

December 31, 2009-February 5, 2010
The new decade is not kind to the Mavericks. In a stretch of nineteen games, the Mavericks are 9-10, including two harsh losses against the first-place Lakers, two blowouts to the Jazz, and some real cry-tears-of-blood to Toronto, Philadelphia, Minnesota . . . The team slips to 4th in the Western Conference standings. Josh Howard bounces in and out of the starting lineup, his numbers drastically down from even last year. It becomes increasingly obvious he is not the player he once was. Jason Terry's numbers are also down by almost three points per game. True bright spots are few and far between for a team with title pretensions.

December 18-27, 2009
On the 19th, a freak collision between Carl Landry and Dirk left Landry less five teeth and Dirk with an interesting gash on his shooting arm. He sits out the next game against the East-leading Cavaliers; confounding all expectations, the Mavs come out of it with a victory. The next week is a mixed bag, as Josh's place in games is constantly tinkered with -- as a two, as a three, as a starter, as a bench guy. On December 27th, the Mavericks face the Denver Nuggets for the first time since the playoffs last year and notch an impressive win (unless one factors in that Chauncy Billups was out with an injury).

October 27-December 16, 2009
After a bit of a gross-out loss to open the season, the 2009-2010 Dallas Mavericks are off to the races, making the best of a demanding schedule. Josh Howard is not officially available until the November 7 game against Toronto and only plays one more game before being deactivated again. The Word is his ankle's still recovering. Shawn Marion is perhaps not as productive offensively as the Mavericks might've hoped, but he's a part of a team defensive machine considered one of the best in the league.

July 9, 2009
Dallas traded guard Jerry Stackhouse and cash considerations to Memphis for guard Greg Buckner; traded forwards Devean George and Antoine Wright to Toronto for forwards Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries, center Nathan Jawai and cash considerations as part of a four-team deal.

Postseason, 2009
The Mavericks, widely considered first round chum, surprise the league by taking San Antonio in five games. However, in the second round the bigger and more athletic Nuggets defeat the Mavericks 4-1, bringing the 2008-2009 campaign to an end. After playing effectively through the San Antonio series and less-effectively but with a lot of grit against the Nuggets, Josh Howard undergoes arthroscopic repair surgery on his injured ankle and wrist.

November 18, 2008
During a game with the Charlotte Bobcats, Josh Howard steps on a foot and twists an ankle. The injury will sideline him for over half the season.

August 2008
Josh Howard is arrested for street racing, speeding, and all the other charges that go along with doing ninety in a forty-five. The street racing charges are dropped later.

Summer, 2008
Someone with a camera phone takes video of Howard muttering, "I don't respect that [the National Anthem]; I'm black." Meanwhile, the Mavericks hire Richard Carlisle to replace Avery Johnson as head coach.

Postseason, 2008
After Game 4 of the first round series with the New Orleans Hornets, Josh Howard attends a late night birthday party, in direct defiance of Coach Avery Johnson's expressed wishes. The coach cancels practise the next day; the team holds a players-only session without him. The Mavericks are eliminated in the next game. Avery Johnson is relieved of his duties two days later.

February 19, 2008
Dallas signs Keith Van Horn and trades Van Horn, Devin Harris, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, DeSagana Diop, first-round draft choices in 2008 and 2010, and cash considerations to New Jersey for Jason Kidd, Malik Allen and Antoine Wright; waives Nick Fazekas.

Why have I done it this way?

I think after Devin Harris was traded, Josh gave up emotionally on the Mavericks. There was a lot of talk at the time at how he and Jason Kidd were having trouble with working together on the court (by contrast, Kidd and Nowitzki clicked almost immediately). Josh also had to deal with a couple of deaths in the family at the time. His behavior in the New Orleans series and during the offseason was considered eccentric at best, earmarks of serious psychological problems at worst. People questioned his reliability as a player, whether or not he would lay it all on the line to make his team do as well as possible. I was one of them.

To be totally fair to Josh, I think he tried all through last year to make it work. I wonder if things would've shaken out differently if he hadn't gotten hurt . . . but he did. It's like a couple trying to reconnect after someone goes through a life-changing event. Sometimes you can fall in love again, and sometimes you can't. At best, he needed a new place to try and get his production going -- his contract has a team option at the end of this year. At worst, he was poison on a team that thrives best when the locker room is an upbeat place.

So when Washington dropped an anvil on their team in the wake of Arenas's Stupid Gun Tricks, the Mavericks were there with Josh's contract and a few trade chits.

I thought I'd miss Josh . . . until I saw his reaction to rumors that he might've missed a game in January due to the brown-bottle flu. Went from muttering about not responding to lies to muttering about hearing from his lawyer. Bullshit detector goes off, and there goes missing Josh. I'm glad my team won't have to deal with him for a while. That said, I was sorry to hear he went down with a torn ACL week before last. I hope he heals well and is able to get another contract.

Quinton Ross I never really got to know. Drew Gooden was traded to the Clippers and is doing all right. I wish the Clips would've waived him; that would've given Dallas a chance to get him back with a new contract and we need all the depth we can get at the 4 and 5. I was also really impressed with how he played while in Dallas and he seemed like a good guy. Singleton . . . I think he's an interesting guy and I respect him a lot, but, let's face it, the best the Mavericks could give him was eleventh man or so.

That's what we've lost. A locker room toothache, and three guys we like. What did we gain? I'll get into that later.

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